Renting a property should be safe and secure for both tenants and property owners. A key to that security is making your agreement binding through a legal rental agreement. Your contract should clearly dictate responsibilities and expectations while protecting the rights of both parties.
Both first-time landlords and experienced property owners should ensure their rental agreement is clear, thorough, and legally binding in order to protect themselves and to give tenants confidence that they are being treated fairly.
Here are a few steps any landlord can use to create a rental agreement.
1. Start with a Pre-made Template
Most landlords aren’t experts on what constitutes a binding contract. Especially if you’re a first-time landlord, you won’t be aware of everything that should be included. Luckily, you don’t have to start completely from scratch. There are a variety of free rental contract templates available online that you can use as a starting point to help you with your contract’s formatting, basic sections, and necessary information. If you limit your search by your location, you may even be able to find a sample template from a government agency that will closely follow your local rental laws.
Of course, you’ll need to tailor the contract to your specific needs, and you don’t want to rely solely on a free template without ensuring that your contract really is reliable and legally binding. However, it will definitely make your life easier to have some of the initial steps out of the way.
2. Include Essential Information
Identify the landlord and tenant(s) at the beginning of the contract. It’s a good idea to include all adult tenants on the lease, so that if payments aren’t completed you can hold all the adult tenants legally responsible and seek restitution. To sign a contract, a tenant must be over 18 years old or have an adult co-signer.
Some other basic information that should be clearly laid out at the beginning of the contract include:
- The time the lease will begin and end
- The address of the property and which areas are included for tenants’ use
- The rent amount, when it’s due
- Any other deposits or fees that are required
- What the penalty or collection process is if payments are late
- Terms for renewal or termination of the contract by either party
Leave a space at the end of the document for each party to sign and date the lease in a statement that agrees to all the terms laid out in the document.
3. Include Specific Clauses
Aside from the essential information listed above, you’ll need to decide what other clauses to include in your contract. These can include rules you have about specific uses for the property and responsibilities for landlords and tenants.
These clauses might include items such as the following:
- Landlord’s right of entry: Will you be required to give notice before entering the property?
- Disruptive behavior and activities: Are there any activities that aren’t allowed or times of the day or night when loud noise is not allowed?
- Pets: Are tenants allowed to keep pets on the property?
- Damage or alterations to premises: Are tenants permitted to make alterations such as painting walls? Will they be reimbursed for any changes they make that increase the property’s value?
- Eviction notices: What constitutes a breach of contract, and what would the eviction process be like? How much notice are you required to give before evicting a tenant?
- Smoking: Will you allow smoking in the house? Is it restricted to some areas of the property?
- Repairs and maintenance: Who is responsible for maintenance such as lawn care or lightbulb changes? How should tenants contact you to alert you to repairs that need to be made, and how quickly can they expect you to respond?
Laying these terms out as clearly as possible will reduce the possibility of misunderstandings and ensure that your and your tenants’ expectations align from the beginning.
Have an Attorney Review Your Contract
You should always have an attorney review your agreement to ensure you have not included any illegal or unenforceable conditions and that your lease is legally binding. This will usually cost you a small fee, but it’s well worth the investment to know that your contract is solid and you’ll be protected by your agreement.
A good property management company will have legal support to assist you in writing a thorough contract. Here at Amanica, we can create a contract that is legally binding and includes all the clauses and information you need for your specific property and situation, as well as help you with all your other property needs.